position S018 42.660 W174 08.320

Ocean Rival Journey Log
Adam Power Diana Power
Sat 16 Jun 2018 09:18

SATURDAY 15th June.  Vavau Tonga .

Nearly a good day spoilt. We started  out by taking a long dinghy ride out to find Swallows cave, stopping on route at a village to check that we had the right information. There are a pair of caves mentioned in the guides as being just about the only visitor attractions on Vavau. Both only accessible by boat and Mariners cave by diving through a short tunnel.
Luckily it was Swallows cave that was within dinghy range of our anchorage and we succeeded in finding it at the very point of the island. There are actually 3 adjacent caves and if the guides had mentioned caves in the plural we might have explored beyond the 1st cave to look at the other 2. As it was we assumed there was just the one and turned back towards the anchorage, caves 2 & 3 unexplored. Cave 1 was however sufficiently impressive to satisfy our cave craving.  We passed the caves in O.R. later spying the mouths of caves 2 & 3 from a safe distance off shore.
View from inside swallows cave looking out.

We set out to find the village with the feast but on route Diana read in the Lonely Planet guide about an uninhabited island that has a trail to the summit where the overgrown grave of a Queen could be found. Intrigued and not hungry we adjusted course and anchored off a white coral sand beach of the island that I had previously spotted coming in from Niue looking liked a capsized yacht with a long keel. With vague information we had a hunt for the trail but various paths disapeared among the coconut palms without promise of anything but lost yachties. Returning to the dinghy we met a man sweeping paths around some newly built huts. He said that the trail hadn't been walked for years and would be almost impassable since the last cyclone had brought down trees across the path. He is Swiss living on the island with his wife and renting out his cabins to eco tourists. He had lost both his boats in storms and hence is completely isolated unless his guests arrive presumably on a charter speedboat from Neiafu. The journey to his island would be epic - several flights and boat ride to enjoy paradise and discover yourself. There are other islands with luxury cabins- seemingly aimed at honeymooning couples but his may be more suited to writers or hermits.  He was not to be detered by storms and lack of boats and was committed for the long haul. He mentioned that the beach changes shape continuously with the weather, waves stripping it bare or piling it up in short shrift.

After lunch the guide book promised amazing snorkling over a coral garden on the adjacent island but we were now aproaching the eastern limits of the archipeligo and the breeze had picked up giving  quite a chop at the recommended anchorage where depths of 20-30m quite close in would have been a worry. Conditions change with the storms and a sand shelf anchorage can presumably shift or vanish completely.

So we turned back west and let the wind blow us back to pick up an anchorage for our last night in Tonga. I chose to aim for a sheltered lagoon between 3 islands- depths of 3-5m noted on my chart and a few rocks and shallows to avoid.  As we approached the engine chose to refuse to fire (must have been an electrical connection issue this time) and I had to make a quick decision whether to skip the anchorage and head straight on for Fiji or sail in to the anchorage. The 2nd option looked feasible as the anchorage was downwind and I shortened the jibs to reduce speed. The reason that the choice was wrong became apparent as the depth guage dropped to 0 and a bu
mp confirmed that it wasn't lying. The bump was followed by a long series of bumps as we made an ungainly entry into the lagoon over a coral bar that must have been  only 4ft deep in places. The waves carried us over but the keel has taken a hammering. I will  check the damage in the morning as it was dusk when we eventually anchored.  The engine did fire up in the middle of the bar giving me a semblance of control but by then I could only press on and take my punishment.

We will have to survey the entrance tomorrow with the dinghy to find the route out- hopefuly there is one otherwise we will be here forever and a day.